Arete Peak has been on my radar for a while now. When I ended up with a midweek day off and nobody to join me I decided 2019 was finally the year that I was going to try for this remote summit.
On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain and on Saturday March 16 2019 I repeated it with Wietse Bijlsma. I always figured I’d repeat this mountain since it’s relatively easy and a surprisingly short day despite being over 1200 meters of height gain and almost 20 km of distance from the Bow Lake parking lot.
Most of my Wapta summits have had brilliant blue skies and views to die for. Mount Rhondda was not one of those peaks. When I first ascended it back in April of 2007 we had very windy conditions with limited views. I set out to rectify this injustice on Thursday, April 26 2018 on a brilliantly sunny and warm Spring day. I was joined by Liz and Alison, both of whom had not done this central icefields peak before.
I was happy with the outcome of Friday’s scramble up Devil’s Thumb and instantly began planning another objective for Sunday. As the weekend progressed, the weather deteriorated for the Bow Lake area and soon the date slipped to Monday. I didn’t want to go Monday due to the expected hordes of folks returning to Calgary after a long weekend of camping so Kaycie and I agreed that we’d get up at 04:45 and try to be off the mountain by around noon – hopefully beating the mad rush from Banff / Canmore to YYC.
Finally the weather, our schedules, and back country avalanche conditions lined up over a weekend, allowing Ben, Steven and I to plan a 2 day excursion to the northern end of the Wapta Icefield. I am rapidly closing in on a long-sought summit list of all the Wapta peaks and only one peak remained for me on the hard-to-access northern end – Peyto Peak. As is usual for us, original plans varied from Youngs Peak to Lilliput (I was willing to repeat it for exercise) and finally we settled last minute on the Peyto Hut area. The plan was to leave Calgary around 04:30 and hopefully arrive at Peyto Hut with enough day light for Ben and Steven to bag Mount Baker on Saturday. Sunday we would ascend Peyto Peak before heading out. For the most part, this plan was executed flawlessly.
I decided to take advantage of a good weather forecast and a day off work on Friday, August 1 2014 to attempt one of my last remaining peaks along the Wapta Icefield – Portal Peak. I’d heard rumors for years that this was only a ‘scramble’, after hearing initially from Dave Stevens that this was a climb – and not an easy one. I remember looking at it from the summit of neighboring Mount Thompson thinking it didn’t look that easy…
Summit Elevation (m): 2984Trip Date: May 11 2014Elevation Gain (m): 1780Round Trip Time (hr): 10.5Total Trip Distance (km): 25Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you sprain or break somethingDifficulty Notes: Very steep snow climb, exposed to cornices followed by very steep snow traverse with severe exposure to the summit. Stable snow is required for this trip!Technical Rating: MN8; YDS (II)Map: Google Maps The last week of April and first few weeks of May, 2014 were a ski mountaineer’s dream in the Alberta Rockies […]
Steven and I found ourselves back in the very familiar confines of the Bow Hut on Wednesday evening after work, May 7 2014. We were hoping to beat a system moving in the next day by staying at the Bow Hut on Wednesday night. We planned on rising very early on Thursday morning to cross the Wapta Glacier in the dark, before climbing Ayesha Peak in advance of the strong spring sun / warm temperatures that could destabilize the steep snow slopes that guard her infamous summit block. Ayesha has been on my radar for many years already, ever since I heard stories of her beautiful snow arete and challenging summit block from friends who had done it already years ago. I didn’t pay quite enough attention to the parts about her summit block that included 4th class rock, but wouldn’t realize that until I was about to start up it myself.
On the shortest day of 2012 I was joined by Wietse and Kelly on an ascent of Mount Gordon on the Wapta Icefields in bitterly cold but clear conditions. Of course, this wasn’t my first time ascending this peak. It was the very first summit on the Wapta for me, back in 2006 on a bitterly cold January day. The afternoon before, we had skied to the Bow Hut in marginal early season conditions across a groaning Bow Lake and barely enough snow in the canyon. We made it to the hut with just a few minutes to spare before dark and enjoyed the hut entirely to ourselves.
A group of us had originally planned a trip up to the Asulkan Hut in Rogers Pass for the weekend of April 19-23rd. Due to poor conditions the objective was changed at the last hour to Peyto Hut on the Wapta Ice field instead. Some of us could only make it for Friday night while a group went in on Thursday already and left on Sunday. Wietse, Scott, Kelly and Robin all headed in on Thursday. They initially had intentions of climbing Mount Habel after getting to the Peyto hut but the warmth of the hut combined with deteriorating conditions led them to drink beer and eat good food instead!
On March 23/24 I joined Kevin Papke for the first summit attempt on his quest for 50 summits in a “Summits for Seniors” fundraiser in his 50th year. Considering his birthday is on March 22nd Kev wasted no time to start his summit bids! We decided that in order to make a big day trip slightly shorter we would ski into the Bow Hut on Friday evening and summit Habel on Saturday before heading home. We left the parking lot under warm conditions, lots of fresh snow and cloudy skies – but with high hopes that the weather forecast for Saturday would come true with a mix of sun and cloud and little wind.
On Good Friday, April 22, 2011 I took my brother in law, Mike up his very first Rockies peak. He chose to attempt his first peak on alpine touring gear, which I thought was very admirable considering you can’t really find a more physically challenging way to climb a mountain than with huge skis and boots attached to your feet! 🙂
On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I skied to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain under a clear, nearly windless spring / winter day. I haven’t stood on a peak since I scrambled Midnight Peak way back on October 30 2010! I think that 5 months between peaks has to be some sort of new record for me. The last few outings I’ve had to the Rockies have been marked by cloud, wind and dreariness. So and I were both looking forward to a nice spring day with sunshine and melting snow but we knew that this was unlikely.
I made it this time! After a previous attempt at the summit of Jimmy Simpson with Raff and Josh in January of 2007 I returned 3.5 years later and bagged it via the other side on a gorgeous fall day. Ironically there was probably more snow in October than we had on our first attempt in January. Originally I had a trip planned with Kerry to do Cathedral Mountain. Due to fresh snow of unknown quantity and an aversion to a 03:00 wake-up time we canceled those plans on Friday evening. I knew what I’d replace it with – I was in the mood to try a solo jaunt up Jimmy Simpson.
I woke the entire hut up at 07:00 on Sunday morning by turning on the stoves and lighting the lanterns. I paid for it by being recruited to help change the outhouse barrel!. I won’t go into detail on this except to say that the best way to ruin your morning appetite is to change an outhouse barrel. That is some nasty business my friends… By 08:30 we were packed up and ready to re-ascend the high col with heavier packs than the day before. I took some medication for my cold, hoping that it would be enough to get me through the day.
TJ’s alarm woke up the hut by going off repeatedly every 2 minutes for half an hour as TJ slept blissfully unaware of the annoyance with his industrial strength ear plugs. By 07:00 Ben had the lights on and the water boiling and we reluctantly left our warm sleeping bags for breakfast. TJ finally decided it was time to wake up and shut down his alarm. I barely managed to choke down some Nutri-grain cereal bars and some instant Starbucks coffee while TJ and Ben stuffed themselves with as much oatmeal as humanly possible.
On Thursday, February 18 2010 a group of us lit up the interweb with a flurry of emails regarding the upcoming weekend. The reason we were so excited was the weather forecast’s promise of an imminent stretch of bluebird days over the Rockies, specifically in the Wapta Icefields area. The Wapta is like any other ice field in the Rockies. If there’s even one measly little cloud in the forecast, chances are very high that you will be experiencing a white out once you get onto the glacier. It’s just the way the weather patterns work with large expanses of snow and ice when there’s any moisture around. Another bonus was the very favorable avalanche reports – somewhat of a rarity for a February snow pack in Alberta.
On Thursday, March 12 2009 Bill Kerr, Wietse Bylsma, Kevin Papke and I set out to clear Kev’s head after a personal loss, the manner of clearing being a nice back country ski up some Wapta Peak. It’s been almost 2 years since I was last on the Wapta since I didn’t get up there at all in 2008 for some reason. I was also looking forward to finally bagging another peak for 2009 – my record of peak bagging in 2009 has been dismal so far!
What a fantastic day in the hills! That about sums up my Mount Olive (and St. Nicholas) outing. After spending a fun but bone chilling day out on the Wapta 3 weekends ago in our Mount Gordon trip, this was just a great way to see the other side to ski mountaineering.